Across the country, extreme winter storms have descended upon us. Even in the Gulf states, short sleeve weather is suddenly shifting to snow. Temperatures are dropping from 70 degrees to 17 degrees.
And the gray skies that bring snow, also contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Gray on the outside can turn some people gray on the inside. And typically, about 5% American adults suffer depression symptoms this time of year only. These sufferers feel fine the other seasons of the year. But something about gray skies, less light, and snow trigger sadness. Which is why they call it SAD. Call it seasonal affective disorder or SAD or any other name. It still feels like depression.
Symptoms include sadness, low energy, fatigue, weight gain or loss, and reduced interest in things they used to enjoy.
And specifically, symptoms begin in late fall…and subside in spring.
Sound familiar? If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you probably recognize these symptoms. Because this disorder that’s associated only with winter is a seasonal depression.
Some believe that the longer nights and shorter days interfere with your body’s internal clock. And that can result in changes in the brain. So using natural light and light boxes can help.
But this year… Katie Bar the Door!!
This year all bets are off. Due to the extra strain and anxiety caused by the COVID pandemic, plus the addition of flu season, the pandemic is causing anxiety and depression on its own. As the infection and death rate have grown, there is also SAD pulling people into darker places.
Social distancing reduces social interaction. Increased stress arises from financial difficulties, employment layoffs and remote learning. That cooped up feeling from being inside the house all day…as well as heightened alert about health… These stressors can cause brain cell changes that can lead to depression.
It goes without saying that so much time in the house because of COVID means less exposure to natural sunlight. You see where this is going.
SAD + COVID precautions + Flu season = Increased risk of depression and anxiety
We’re not making light of the bombarding risks facing you this winter that threaten your wellbeing. On the contrary, recognize that this season holds a unique storm of confusing symptoms. These symptoms can emerge in your health and your wellbeing.
The symptoms can be from depression you’ve had all year, or the result of COVID’s strain, or if it only happens this time of year it could be from SAD…. That’s why they call it seasonal affective disorder.
And being informed and familiar can help protect you from confusion and overwhelm if a tangle of symptoms should emerge in you or your family.
There are things you can do. For SAD, light therapy is helpful for lots of people.
Symptoms of SAD intersect with symptoms of major depressive disorder, and some of the symptoms can also be found in cases of flu and COVID, like fatigue.
So don’t be too unnerved if you find you have feelings of a deep dread, or increased agitation, or nervousness. If at all possible, this is not the time for controversial conversations about politics or religious differences. You may not realize the the underlying agitation or fear you feel may actually be stimulated by the pandemic and its restrictions, rather than the subject that seems so upsetting.
Families have been thrown into upheaval and even split apart by this dread and agitation that only began since the COVID crisis. Keep your relationships shielded and safe.
This is a great time for finding ways to reassure the people in your world, to find light-hearted discussions, and to maintain a sense of humor. This is a time for helping the people around you to maintain stability and get through this, rather than allowing controversy to up-end those already on shaky ground.
Find Healthy Ways to Bring Light Into Your Life
Seek out healthy and productive ways of occupying your thoughts, and avoid those counter to your wellbeing, such as alcohol and substance use. Do your best to find ways to brighten your family and friends with online games, painting projects, sewing and knitting (not just for the ladies now… you guys are missing creative fun if you don’t try it!), and all the ideas you can come up with that will get everyone talking and laughing in front of the computer screen!
If you’ve experienced SAD in prior years, this year may be more severe, so seek natural light as often as possible… You can call it seasonal affective disorder or just depression… either way, there’s hope.
And if you do have depression symptoms that don’t respond to medication, there’s hope. If the medication that has been effective for years has suddenly become ineffective over the past year, hang on. IV ketamine treatment just may make the difference you need.
Ketamine treatment is a series of individually titrated infusions within a couple weeks. Ketamine has a remarkable ability to tamp down feelings of hopeless and despair, while building up the connections between brain cells proliferate a dense communication network.
The result is a brightness of emotion, clearer thinking, restored energy for daily living, improved creativity, and the power to build healthy relationships. And…hope. It happens fast…and it can last.
Is it the same for everyone?
We have patients who may require a few more than the traditional six infusions, who recover so dramatically they haven’t needed more. That’s not to say those same patients might not eventually need another infusion eventually. They know to watch for the signs.
But sometimes people read articles and misunderstand about how ketamine treatment works. They think they have to keep getting infusions every couple months, or they read that ketamine treatment can’t really last.
Broad assumptions should be avoided when it comes to treatment in the brain. Results vary among different people, and as we often remind our readers, ketamine doesn’t work for everyone. But when it works, it can work dramatically well. And it can do a transformative work in most patients who are candidates for it.
Whether You Call It Seasonal Affective Disorder or Something Else, You Might Want to See what Ketamine Treatment Can Do for You
And when the clouds dump snow, make snow angels!
We also invite our ketamine patients to ask their healthcare team to collaborate with us as we deliver the infusions and they can follow up with any needed therapies.
Also, for the sake of safety, we have a protocol for patients who come to the office that involves special instructions, mask wearing, and special safety precautions.
To this end, we’ve installed technology that destroys viruses including the COVID and flu viruses, as well as bacteria and molds in the air and on surfaces. This means that when we open the door for your appointment, you can come inside for treatment with confidence, knowing you’re safe.
You may call it seasonal affective disorder…or SAD… or major depression or other affective disorders, but if they’re not helped by medication, call us.
This is a tough winter, and these intensive winter storms aren’t making it any easier. Reach out for resilience.
Your remission is what we live to help you achieve.
Life really can get better.
Reach out for hope.
To the restoration of your best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.